Autumn is officially here, and with it comes the bountiful fall harvest. It’s long been known that eating food that’s in season is not only fresher and tastier, but it also offers more nutrients and other significant benefits. Here we talk to Yoko Kawashima, functional medicine certified health coach at AAPRI’s Center for Functional Medicine, to gain some insights into the top 4 healthy benefits of eating food that’s in season—including a free seasonal recipe!
1. In-season food simply tastes better.
When fruits and vegetables are allowed to naturally ripen, they are sweeter, juicier, crispier, and more flavorful. Anyone who has enjoyed the perfection of a freshly picked apple, tomato, or ear of corn knows this to be true. As Yoko explains, “produce that comes from far away is often prematurely harvested and refrigerated during shipping.” This process can greatly reduce the flavor and even change the texture of foods, which is why you get mealy apples, flavorless tomatoes, limp greens, or fibrous, even sour pineapples.
2. Fresh, locally grown food is more nutritious.
It’s an established fact that in-season, locally grown fruits and vegetables are higher in nutritional value. According to Yoko, when produce is picked before it’s ripe or when it must be stored for long periods of time, such as during shipping, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin C, folate, and carotenes (which give some foods their color) will rapidly decline. Other practices intended to extend the shelf life of food such as gassing, irradiation (a burst of radiation to kill bacteria), and wax also diminish the nutrients in food.
“No matter what the season, your body will naturally crave what it needs,” says Yoko. Even winter vegetables such as kale, parsnips, and other root vegetables offer nutritious comfort in healthy soups, stews, and casseroles. Here are two great resources to help you eat in season.
- Seasonal Food Guide – Find What’s in Season Near You
- Eatwild’s Pastured Products Directory – Rhode Island
Yoko’s Butternut Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes (about 2 lbs)
1 apple, sliced and cored
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder (leave this out if you are nightshade-free)
3 cups chicken broth (*vegetable broth)
Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine squash, apple, onion, and carrots into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp of olive oil and the cinnamon. Mix well. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake for 40 min. Note: If you’re in a hurry, microwave the squash for 2 minutes then bake for 30 min or until done.
Heat a pot on the stove over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and the roasted medley from the baking sheet. Add cinnamon and chili powder and stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 min.
Using an immersion blender, blend ingredients in pot until pureed. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil on top and pepitas as a garnish.
3. You can avoid pesticides and other contaminates.
When you buy your food at a local farm or farmer’s market, you have an opportunity to talk directly with the people who grow the food. Ask about what, if any, pesticides they use to grow the food. Whenever possible, it’s best to buy organically grown food as “pesticides can disrupt the endocrine system and impede healthy function of hormones,” says Yoko. “Pesticides can also impact the health of the gut microbiome, disrupt the health of the gut bacteria, and they are also linked to type 2 diabetes.”
4. Eating local is better for the environment.
Eating locally grown produce reduces the demand for out-of-season produce, which supports the local farmers and economy in your community. It also eliminates the environmental impact of transporting food across the world, which reduces fossil fuel emissions and irradiation practices, as well as the need for refrigeration and hot houses. Eating local, particularly if organic, also helps preserve nutrients in the soil as Yoko explains, “pesticides get leached into the soil, which can kill the good bacteria in the soil reducing the quality of the soil and the nutritional value of the food.”
Find out how functional medicine can help you be healthier. Eating fresh, locally sourced food is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle and a functional medicine approach to health. At the AAPRI Center for Functional Medicine, our dedicated team works with you address your symptoms and improve your overall health and quality of life.
Contact us today to schedule your free 15-minute Discovery Call and learn more!